C.Jerzy Polish Aircraft 1893-1939 (Putnam)
Jerzy Rudlicki began experimenting with large kites at the age of 15, while still at school in Odessa, in 1908. These activities led him to the construction of man-carrying gliders, the first of which, Glider No. 1, completed early in 1909, was not much more than a man-carrying kite with flat-section biplane wings, a single vertical frame and fixed vertical and horizontal tail surfaces. On 3 March of that year Rudlicki was launched, by two of his friends pulling the ropes, from open land near the Odessa park and became airborne for the first time. Unable to maintain balance, the young constructor realized, only when actually in the air, that some means of control was necessary to continue the flight successfully. However, by then it was too late to do anything about it and after a brief flight the aircraft crashed. Rudlicki received superficial bruises and the remnants of his glider were quickly taken apart by souvenir hunters.
Undaunted by these rough beginnings, Rudlicki immediately proceeded with the construction of an improved glider incorporating rudimentary controls. In 1909 and 1910, altogether he completed nine gliders, their designs progressing from very simple structures, in which the pilot hung in the uncovered centre section of the wing and landed on his own feet, to sophisticated powerless aircraft equipped with comprehensive control systems and landing gear. In search of the best solutions he experimented with a number of layouts and produced a variety of configurations, which revealed an enquiring and adventurous mind and a fertility of ideas on the part of the young designer, who thus gained the distinction of becoming one of the most creative Polish constructors of this early era. Launching methods were also improved and, later, horse traction was used, but all gliding took place from flat ground in Odessa. In the later stage of his work on gliders Rudlicki was joined by Dobrowolski.
In view of the limited amount of documentary material available, not all of the Rudlicki gliders can be described. Glider No. 2 had equal-span two-bay biplane wings, a forward elevator on two outriggers in front of the wing, and a single vertical frame, which carried at its rear end a rudder and horizontal stabilizer, the pilot's body being suspended from the centre section of the lower wing. Its gross lifting area was 20 sq m (215.3 sq ft) and the span 7.5 m (24 ft 7 1/2 in). Glider No. 3 was generally similar, but incorporated a superior control system which included ailerons, a rudimentary seat for the pilot and various other refinements. Another early type was a tandem-wing monoplane featuring a main wing, which accommodated the pilot in the centre section, a smaller supplementary wing in front and an elevator surface at the rear. This glider had a total lifting area of 15 sq m (161.5 sq ft) and a span of 7.5 m (24 ft 7 1/2 in), while its basic weight was about 25 kg (55 lb). All these 'first-generation' models employed single-surfaced wings, with cotton fabric loosely attached to the framework of ribs laid across transverse spars.
Progressive improvements introduced to each successive type led Rudlicki to the development of the 'second-generation' designs, which embodied aileron, elevator and rudder controls. His last three gliders, Nos. 7, 8 and 9, were all unequal-span single-bay biplanes with a forward supplementary elevator carried on outriggers in front of the single-surfaced cambered wings. Gliders Nos. 7 and 8, which were essentially similar and featured double fuselage frames and triangular twin rudders, differed from each other only in detail, the latter employing a wheel undercarriage. Glider No. 9, spanning 9 m (29 ft 6 3/4 in), was a two-seater and incorporated a single vertical rear fuselage frame. This last type was displayed in the aviation hall of the Industry and Commerce Exhibition, held in Odessa from the end of 1910 until the spring of 1911, which was illuminated at night by lights carried by four large kites constructed by Rudlicki. These kites were later bought for the court of the Shah of Persia.
In appreciation of these aviation activities, Rudlicki was awarded a special diploma by the Odessa Branch of the Tsarist Russian Technical Association, which, commended his contribution to the advancement of aeronautical knowledge.